Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Anonymous #3

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from an anonymous contributor. We’re looking for your stories, so please do contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

My lockdown hasn’t gone according to plan. It should of been easy but every step of the way everything has gone wrong. My housemates moved out at the start and and me and my fiancee split up after living just a week alone together.

Bute Park, photo by We Are Cardiff

Let’s go back to the beginning and to start with I must admit that I didn’t believe we would be affected by the pandemic. There’s no way it’ll affect us, it’s just something in China, and then it’s just something in Italy. Then we got told we could start to work from home – the week before the lockdown, I kept on going into the office, even though some friends had been working from home for weeks. I honestly thought it would all blow over.

Maybe they saw what I couldn’t see, which seems really obvious when you look back on it, and that is the story of my life. I am often told I am wearing blinkers when it suits me.

On Friday 13 March (we’re already off to a bad start) me and my fiancee and two housemates officially moved into our new house, a big five-bedroom place on the edge of Heath. It’s not an area I’ve ever lived in before, but I found this great house, two kitchens, three bathrooms, five bedrooms! I fell in love with it while we were house hunting. He needed an extra room as an office to work from home so we were looking at bigger houses, but the rents were a lot for two people. We were living in Canton but it’s expensive we decided to look in other areas and found we could afford a lot more.

We still couldn’t afford the rent for this place just us so we moved in with two friends who were between places and one was working in the Heath hospital so it worked out fine. The house is so big, we’ve got a kitchen on the ground floor by the garden and a small one on the top floor. The layout is a bit funny because I think it used to be flats. But it was perfect for us.

Before the lockdown was announced but there were rumours, I was extra happy about having found the house for us, because of all the space! “Lots of room for all of us and we won’t all be on top of each other” is how I was thinking about it.

Everyone else seemed a bit less excited. Looking back I really was not thinking about the reality of what it would be like to be locked down.

Me and my fiancee got engaged in June last year (I can’t believe it’s nearly a year ago). Looking back I think maybe the reason we got engaged was because things weren’t going well, I pushed for him to ask me to marry him because he would never of asked otherwise. It wasn’t like things were bad but we were fighting and we argued. There was a lot of bickering and I did wonder often if I was happy.

I thought getting married would give us something to focus on, bring us together more, something we could bond over that would stop that all. Maybe I thought it would make him commit to being with me and I think maybe I just didn’t want to be on my own, and I thought once you’re with someone for that long, you get married and you have children and that’s happiness. That’s just what happens and that’s what I really wanted with him.

The landlord gave us the keys to the house a week early in March because the old tenants had left earlier than expected. So we had one blissful week in the house. It was so exciting, moving in, unpacking boxes, arranging things where we wanted them, backwards and forward trips to Ikea to buy a new bed and desk and chair for his office as he would be working from home.

Across the UK there was panic, as people stocked up on everything. Idiots, I thought (secretly pleased we had done a massive shop the week before, we had spent a fortune stocking the house up as we’d just moved in, but we had 100 metres of tin foil and a huge mound of toilet roll amongst our spoils, we would be fine for toilet roll until December).

And then the following Monday. Rumours of a proper lockdown. Friends who work in the government and have friends in places told us we would potentially be stuck inside for months, like we were seeing in Italy. There is no way, I thought. They are just exaggerating.

We had even bought new kitchen utensils for the new house even though we already everything we needed. I wanted a new start and I thought knives and forks would give me what I wanted. But it turns out a new house and new cutlery can’t do that.

Slowly things in the house started falling apart when the reality of the lockdown became clearer.

Things became real in the news and reality looked grim. One housemate has parents in the vulnerable category. Suddenly she appeared in the kitchen in the morning with a bag packed and told us she was getting the train back to west Wales to stay with them in case they needed looking after and travel got stopped.

After she had gone it was the catalyst for our other housemate. He had been seeing someone for six months who lives down in the Bay (not walking distance from our house) and they decided to isolate together otherwise they wouldn’t be able to see each other at all, and so the next day he was gone too.

I thought they were overreacting. “It will all be over in a couple of weeks, what is the fuss.” I thought I knew better. “The newspapers and the government are always lying to us about everything, it will never be that bad.”

My fiancee lasted one more week in the house with me alone, just the two of us by ourselves. Without the housemates there as a buffer and without the excitement of kitting out the new house we had one argument too many and then he moved out too.

In honesty me and him haven’t been happy together for years. Weeks of crying and thinking alone in the house since he has gone have made me realise that. Also I contacted a therapist I found through Mind and have been talking to her once a week which has really helped.

We got together when we were 25 and I’m turning 36 this year. We had been on a break once before, two years ago when things weren’t working out. That had been my idea but when we got back together I really threw myself into it. I think he got back together with me because it was just easier than being alone, this time it was all him and it was really painful for me to hear that from him. I feel like he didn’t even try to talk to me, didn’t give us a chance to work it out together. He just decided and then he left.

I’ve gone from thinking I would of had a lovely lockdown with my fiancee and our friends in our nice roomy house to being trapped here in a huge house all alone.

I’m lucky that I can work from home. I still have a job. My fiancee had bought a full set of office furniture before the lockdown and didn’t take anything with him, so I’ve moved things around so I have a proper desk to work at in the dining room now.

I have been drinking every day, I try not to start drinking before 5pm if I can help it but I haven’t been able to manage it every day. But now nearly two months later I have managed to get a grip on the drinking. Next week I am planning to try no drinking during the week and just having it as a treat at the weekend.

Our landlord has been amazing, he messaged at the start of April to say he’d paused the mortgage payments on the house so we have a three month rent holiday. I told him that everyone else had had to move out and I didn’t know what was happening. He didn’t reply but the next morning he left a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates and a note on the doorstep telling me not to worry for now. I didn’t tell him we had split up but he probably would of guessed from what I said.

I don’t know what will happen next, I don’t know if our housemates will ever be moving back, I know my fiancee definitely won’t. Ex fiancee I should say now. I don’t know what will happen in the house, I don’t know if I even want to stay here. I definitely don’t like living by myself and I know I need people around, even if they are strangers in a shared house.

I’ve found lockdown really hard. Living alone is hard.

Me and him did a lot of Zoom calls with our friends that first week but since we split up right I just haven’t got the energy to talk to anyone. People have been trying to get in touch with me but I’ve ignored most of them. I’m so tired by the end of a working day, I just can’t face anyone else, I don’t want to have to explain what happened or go into it or talk about it, it’s hard over video call. At work no one asks about that sort of thing and so that’s better. I don’t live near anyone anymore so no one can pop round on their way anywhere or vice versa. I feel like I’ve moved to a different country.

I don’t know anyone on my new street. The houses are so much bigger and further away from each other it’s hard to talk to people, I’ve barely been outside, my exercise is walking to the Aldi on Caerphilly Road which is a bit of a walk but it forces me to get outside otherwise I wouldn’t go outside at all.

Everyone goes outside to clap on Thursdays and I see people talking together along the street. I want to go and talk to them but I feel too self conscious, I was feeling so bad I couldn’t go outside the first few weeks they did it and now I feel like everyone will be staring at me because I haven’t been out to clap at all. Also I think they’ll ask about me living in this huge house alone and I don’t want to have to explain what has happened.

I miss the street in Canton that we used to live on, the house was tiny and barely big for two people but we knew our neighbours, everyone was friendly, we used to pop into Chapter all the time.

It’s weird I have to keep reminding myself that’s not possible even for people who live there now.

So this has been my lockdown. Not what I expected at all. I hate living by myself it’s so lonely and I really miss having people around. The house is too big for one person and I miss having people to talk to in person. I haven’t told anyone that we have split up, our friends will know because he would of told some of them, but I haven’t told my parents or my sister.

I have no idea what the future holds for me. I have barely been able to think about the virus and the impact on society. I know that sounds bad but I just haven’t got space in my head to think about anything, I feel numb, my whole world has just been turned upside down.

I watch the news and I try and keep on top of what is going on with the virus. I wear a mask to the supermarket and wash my hands if I get the post or when I come back from shopping. But I honestly can’t focus or think about it, all I can think about is that I had all these plans, for a wedding and for having a family, even just the rest of this year, I thought we would be living in this lovely house and my ex would be working from home in his office. Now it’s all different, it’s so hard to accept it is not what I wanted it to be.

This is the first time I have really spoken about this, except I know it is not speaking it is writing. But writing this has made me think I should text my sister which I think is a step. We never got on that well but we are always there for each other when things go wrong. I think I will text her today, before I change my mind.

Before we moved in here in my head this was the perfect house but without any people in it is just an empty shell.  And the area is so boring compared to Canton, I like the parks, I like being close to town and walking home through Bute Park,  like the buzz and the feeling of being around everything. I miss living in Canton so much, and to cheer myself I’ve started looking for flats and house shares there.

Flathunting is the highlight of my day and how I’ve been getting through.

I’m really looking forward to moving back once lockdown is lifted.

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2 thoughts on “Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Anonymous #3”

  1. Hi,

    I have just read this article by the anonymous contributor, and I’m very concerned about them. I’m very happy they’re speaking to a therapist via Mind, but it is obvious from their words that they are really struggling, and have been for a long time.

    Is there any way of passing on my details to see if they’d like to get in touch? I’d be more than happy to set up virtual chats with them and hopefully provide a friendly contact if this is something they’d be interested in.

    Best wishes,

    Barbara Ann


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